Check out British director Sophie Goodhart’s IMDB page, and you’ll see quite a few credits under writer and assistant director, but under the “Director” heading, there are only two entries — and they have the same title. The first “My Blind Brother” was a short film Goodhart made back in 2003, inspired in part by her relationship with her sister, who has MS and uses a wheelchair. The second My Blind Brother is out now and stars Jenny Slate as a woman caught in a love triangle between the two brothers — an arrogant, driven athlete who happens to be blind (Adam Scott), and a slacker/stoner who resents his blind brother (Nick Kroll) — of the short.
Goodhart tells BUST that she was working on another idea about Slate’s character — who meets the brothers after she dumps her fiancé, who is then immediately hit by a bus and dies.
“I realized if I put Jenny’s story into the story of the two brothers, then it’s a nice connection. It felt like it made both stories much richer and more complex,” she says. “The short is darker and it doesn’t have any romance in it, it’s just between the two brothers. And then the feature has this romantic end to it, as well as being a relationship comedy. And along with being more romantic, it’s probably a bit more hopeful. I feel like in shorts, you can kind of push people into very deliciously uncomfortable feelings, and sometimes when I watch features that are kind of incessantly dark, I just feel, ‘Ugh,’ you know? I wanted to make something that was dark but that eventually not.”
My Blind Brother definitely succeeds there — while there are definitely dark moments and moments that make you feel uncomfortable, there are plenty of laughs to make up for it. And, in a potentially risky move, some of those laughs play around the blind brother’s disability.
“I didn’t ever really worry about it. I think producers worried about it more than I did,” Goodhart says.
“I just worried about what I was looking at, the relationship between a sibling and a disabled sibling. And I have that relationship — my sister’s in a wheelchair — and I feel very, very comfortable and allowed to talk about how I felt in that situation.”
Though some critics have disagreed with Goodhart’s depiction of the character’s blindness, others have praised her for not playing into the trope of making disabled characters that are basically angels — which Goodhart says was her goal.
“I also thought about how the disabled are portrayed, and how they’re often sort of given a magical quality or portrayed as these angelic, good people,” she says.
“Hold on, we all have flaws, everybody. I think it’s deeply patronizing to the disabled community to assume that every single one of them is a really great person. I never really worried about portraying a typical blind character. I think about the fact that Adam’s character Bobby is an athlete — athletes have to be incredibly single minded because what they’re doing involves such focus and dedication. And that level of focus and dedication sometimes comes at a cost of relationships with family or friends. So Bobby isn’t just a disabled person. He’s a well-rounded person who happens to be visually impaired, but he’s also an athlete, and he’s also the firstborn, and he’s also kind of arrogant.”
Goodhart made My Blind Brother while she was heavily pregnant — a choice she made because it took so long to get the funding to make the movie.
“I was very — not fat, but large! — and physically quite tired, but it had been such a long wait that I would have done it with the baby half out if I had had to,” she says.
Though she’s quick to praise her producer and her cast, Goodhart says that there were certainly difficulties in getting her movie even picked up — and not because of its subject matter.
“It took the actors signing on for me to be able to make the story,” she says. “In some way, the actors have such a huge, they have a lot of power because once they’re into this story, producers have to take it seriously. Once they signed on, I got money kind of four and a half seconds later. You ring up a producer and say, ‘I’ve got Jenny Slate and Nick Kroll and Adam Scott,’ and it’s like, ‘Oh, where do we sign?’ so that was really nice.”
She adds, “But it is very complicated as a first-time woman director even getting in the door, and I think it’s changing now, which is delightful and thank god, but for me, that censorship happened in that people weren’t going to give me money to make it.”
We certainly hope it doesn’t take another 13 years for Goodhart to be able to direct a film — after My Blind Brother, we’re excited to see what else she’ll do.
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